Looking without seeing: Pictogramisation of photojournalism and the changing nature of eyewitnessing via news photography
Over the past decade, media outlets have increasingly been resorting to the use of highly generic and non-journalistic images, such as stock photographs, in their news coverage. Moreover, we see an increased willingness to use photojournalistic images as if they are ahistorical, interchangeable visualizations. Although photography’s “special connection” to “the real” has never been as straightforward as and unproblematic as journalism or the theoretical notion of indexicality implied, the use of such photographs explicitly privileges decorative over informative or illustrative role of images and severs the connection of news photography to “the real”. Through this, they effectively become pictograms rather than pictorial means of narrating news or news stories in their own right.
In this talk, Ilija Tomanić Trivundža will present the evolution of the pictogramisation of photojournalism as such images move from the domain of soft news, crime and thematic coverage into spot news coverage and war photography. He will argue that move from news photographs to “photojournalistic pictograms” implies, among other things, a dangerous renouncement of the role and potential of photography to act as a bearer of certifiable information. It also changes the nature of witnessing and eyewitnessing via news, which becomes increasingly reliant on invisibility rather than visibility. Although the pictogramisation of photojournalism is generally an outcome of organisational dynamics and pressures within media outlets (e.g. speed of reporting, financial constrains, precarious labour), the trend, it will be argued, unwittingly contributes to the post-truth zeitgeist and erosion of journalisms tools for trustworthy narration and depiction of the world.
About the researcher
Ilija Tomanić Trivundža is an Associate Professor at the Chair of Media Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and a member of Social Communication Research Centre at the same institution. His research spans across the field of visual studies, photography theory and history, and journalism studies. He is a former President of the European Research and Communication Association ECREA.